Heritage - common questions

Heritage means different things to different people.

To some people, heritage simply means old and glamorous looking buildings, while to others it could mean ancient trees or ruins.

Our heritage place gives us a sense of the past and of who we are - our cultural identity.

As our environment is constantly changing and it is impossible to keep everything, we need ways to identify and assess places to determine which are the most important for us to keep as part of our heritage.

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Heritage places

A heritage place could include a site, area, building, group of buildings, structure, archaeological site, tree, garden, geological formation, fossil site, habitat or other natural or cultural significance and its associated land.

It may be significant for scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical reasons or for any other special cultural value.

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Heritage overlays

The Heritage Overlay provisions are set out at Clause 43.01 within all Victorian Local Planning Schemes. A local Schedule to the Heritage Overlay lists the properties affected by the Heritage Overlay and any additional controls that may apply to that particular site.

The Heritage Overlay is mapped in the Planning Scheme to show the location and extent of heritage controls over a particular heritage place.

Under the Heritage Overlay a planning permit is required from Council to:

  • subdivide or consolidate land
  • demolish or remove a building (including part of a building)
  • construct a building (including part of a building, or a fence)
  • externally alter a building
  • construct or carry out works
  • construct or display a sign
  • externally paint an unpainted surface (refer to note below)
  • externally paint a building if the painting constitutes an advertisement.

In some instances, external paint controls, internal alteration controls and control over trees may also apply. The Schedule to the Heritage Overlay will identify whether these additional controls apply to your site.

The property may be an Aboriginal heritage place. If so it will be subject to the requirements of the Archaeological and Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1972 and the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984.

The Heritage Overlay may not apply to the whole of the site. You will need to refer to the planning scheme maps which are available at all Customer Service Centres or on the Department of Planning website.

Property owners and developers are strongly encouraged to discuss proposals with Council prior to committing to a project.

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Heritage area objectives

Within a heritage area or precinct, the primary objective is to ensure the conservation of those elements that contribute to the area's significance. Not every building will be significant, and the removal or alteration of non-contributory elements or the development of these sites, is not usually a major concern.

The objective is to ensure that where development does occur, it occurs in a manner which is appropriate to the significance, character and appearance of the heritage area.

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Cultural heritage significance

Cultural heritage significance is a phrase used to describe the value of a place or object. A place may be recognised for many reasons - for its aesthetic, historic, scientific or social value or other special value for future generations of Australians as well as for the present community.

Places with heritage significance may help us to understand the past, enrich the present or be of value to future generations.

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Heritage significance assessment process

Heritage assessments are generally carried out by qualified and experienced professionals.

Assessment reports usually include a history and description of the site, an assessment of the condition and integrity of the place, and a comparative analysis to substantiate the significance of the place.

The Statement of Significance generally identifies 'what' is historically important and 'why' it is important.

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Heritage property identification

Most heritage places are identified by Council during the process of carrying out a municipal heritage study.

During the initial stages of the heritage study, the community are normally encouraged to nominate sites and places of potential historic significance.

Nominated places then undergo a heritage assessment in order to determine whether or not the place is significant and warrants heritage protection at either a state or local level.

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Heritage property restorations

The Heritage Overlay cannot force an owner to restore or maintain their property. Council offers an incentive for restoration works through the Heritage Geelong Low Interest Revolving Loan Fund and the provision of a heritage advisory service.

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Heritage property demolitions

Being able to demolish a house or building depends on a number of factors. The primary purpose of the Heritage Overlay is to protect the heritage significance of a building, place or area.

If the heritage place is individually significant, or if it contributes to the significance of an area, a permit for demolition may be refused if the proposal would adversely affect the significance of the place. The citation sheet for the place will explain why the place is important.

If a planning permit is refused, it is possible to have this decision reviewed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

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Heritage property repairs and maintenance

A planning permit is not required under the Heritage Overlay to carry out routine maintenance and repairs which do not change the appearance of the heritage place. If the repairs or maintenance involve replacing 'like with like', then a planning permit may not be required.

For example, a rusty iron roof may be replaced with a new iron roof but a planning permit would be required for a roof clad in different in materials (for example: to use tiles instead of iron).

If in any doubt, clarify your intentions with the local Council before committing to the repairs or maintenance.

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Heritage property valuations

Heritage Victoria (Heritage Listing & Property Valuations In Victoria, March 2001) recently reviewed a number of studies that investigated the effect of heritage listings upon property values and development potential.

The studies ranged from those which indicated a positive impact upon property values following heritage listing to those that indicated a negative impact.

In summary, it found that research studies, both domestic and international, indicate that heritage listing on a macro level is not a significant factor in determining property value either at the time of listing or following. 

However, there are individual cases where the effects are more significant, either positive or negative. It is often difficult to estimate the specific effects of heritage listing on the value of a property since heritage controls do not prohibit development, subdivision or demolition but require that approval to be obtained.

Where there is some capacity to develop the particular place and achieve additional development on the land without seriously compromising the heritage significance of the place, the impact on values may not be as great as where the capacity for further development is more limited.

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Heritage overlay building insurance

As long as heritage buildings are structurally sound, water tight, secure and well maintained, there should be no difficulty with insuring heritage properties.

Premiums should not be any higher than for an unlisted property. It is recommended, however, that property owners confirm this matter with their individual insurer.

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Heritage studies assessment criteria

To date a number of comprehensive heritage studies have been undertaken within the Geelong region. These studies include:

  • Geelong Region Historic Buildings and Objects Study Volumes 1-3, prepared by Allan Willingham for the Geelong Regional Commission, (1986)
  • Geelong City Urban Conservation Study, Volume 1, prepared by Graeme Butler for the City of Geelong, (1993)
  • Geelong City Urban Conservation Study, Volumes 2-5, prepared by Graeme Butler for the City of Geelong, (1991)
  • Geelong City Urban Conservation Study, Volume 4(a), prepared by Helen Lardner for the City of Greater Geelong, (1995)
  • Geelong City, 'C' citations Volume, prepared by Dr David Rowe - Authentic Heritage Services (2002)
  • City of Geelong West Urban Conservation Study, Volumes 1-2, prepared by Huddle, Aitken and Honman for the City of Geelong West, (1986)
  • City of Newtown Urban Conservation Study, Volumes 1-4, prepared by Context Pty Ltd for the City of Newtown, (1991)
  • City of Newtown Urban Conservation Study, Volumes 5(a) and 5(b), prepared by Richard Peterson for the City of Greater Geelong, (1997)
  • Bellarine Heritage Study, Volumes 1-3, prepared by Huddle, Howe, Lewis and Francis for the City of Greater Geelong, (1996)
  • Greater Geelong Outer Areas Heritage Study Volumes 1-16 prepared by Authentic Heritage Services (2000).

All these studies where prepared by qualified heritage practitioners using the adopted heritage criteria at the time.

The Greater Geelong Outer Areas Heritage Study 2000 has used the principles of the Australia ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance (the Burra Charter) and its Guidelines as the basis to all of the assessments in this study. The Burra Charter defines cultural significance by aesthetic, historic, scientific and social values.

In addition the criteria for the Assessment of Cultural Significance of the Register of the National Estate was used to develop a code with the results found on the front page of each citation sheet under the column 'Heritage Study Degrees of Significance'. Further details of this code can be found in Volume 1 Section 4 of the Study Report.

All places that are proposed for planning protection, including places identified in a heritage study, are required to be documented in a manner that clearly substantiates their scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest or other special cultural or natural values.

A citation sheet has been prepared for each place should include a statement of significance that clearly establishes the importance of the place.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 23 December 2020